The native concept: vague definitions
Dictionary definition of native
Are you a native of the land you are currently living in? Why do you consider yourself as such? What are your criteria in determining who is native and who is not? Should there be any criteria in the first place? If so, what purpose would this serve?
According to Cambridge dictionary, ”native” relates or describes ‘’someone’s country or place of birth or someone who was born in a particular country or place.’’ What a definition like this doesn’t take into consideration is the highly subjective interpretation of words like ”country” and ”place”.
American definition of native
Let us take the United States as an example. Is everyone born in the United states ‘’native’’ to the country? Normally, someone who is native to America is American, but why do we have terms like Asian-American and African-American? Were the last two ”categories” of Americans born in Asia and Africa, got shipped en masse to the United States and became American?
If it is a practice in the United States to add someone’s ethnic background (even though Asia and Africa are continents, not ethnicities) to their birth country, why don’t we hear of European-Americans as often? If European-Americans are considered the ”default” Americans, why aren’t they called native Americans? Ironically, calling ”Americans” native Americans would not only be wrong but also make them sound ”less native”. I will not even discuss the pejorative connotations ”native” came to carry due to hate and prejudice.
A universal problem
The United States is just one example among many, many others. This is not an American issue. This is a universal issue. It is the concept of who is native and, by virtue, who is not that is the root of evil.
In this article, we are going to prove that there is no such a thing as a ”native”. We will also talk about the evil this concept is capable of unleashing on the world.
The foundations of native: exposing the confusion
People claim being native on more or less the same grounds: place of birth, language, ethnicity and culture. Let’s have a critical look at all of them and see if they make as much sense as we believe them to do.
Place of birth
If you were born in Japan, you would normally say that you are native to Japan. If you were born in the United States, you would say that you are native to America. But have you ever considered that your claim is completely untrue? What are you a native of, specifically? If a place like ‘’Japan’’ or ‘’America’’ is the pre-requisite to nativeness, have you been born everywhere in Japan or America? Basically, you were born somewhere in Japan; Tokyo, for example; you have been somewhere in America; New York, let’s say.
That being said, how can you claim being native of such big places like Japan or America while your birth and life experiences have been confined to only a small portion of them? Woulnd’t it be more accurate to claim you are a native of Tokyo or New York?
To be native to a place is to be familiar with that place. You can be native to your hometown or even city. A certain place also has a culture (often referred to as ”sub-culture”) that is different from other cities within a country. If a city’s culture is part of its definition and a country is comprised of different cities, how can you claim being native to an entire country without experiecing all of its subcultures?
It’s like claiming ownership of an entire puzzle just because you own a piece of it.
Command of the native language is another major criterion in determining who is native and who isn’t. However, when did we ever agree that the language currently spoken in a country is native? What criteria should we consider to decide which language is native to a country? How many languages had been spoken in a country before the current one became the new native? Can we claim to be native to a country whose ”native language” is not native in the first place? How can we find the real native language?
We can adopt different approaches in answering the last question. For example, we could say that the native language of a country is the very first language that was spoken there. Alternatively, we could say that it is the language that had (if it went extinct) or has been spoken the longest.
If we adopt the first approach, most languages spoken in today’s world are not the same as those that were first spoken in their respective countries. If nobody speaks the original language of the country, how can anyone be native to it?
On the other hand, If you determine the ”nativeness” of a language based on the length of time it had or has been spoken in a country, most today’s countries will be discredited from any claims of speaking the native language. In Egypt, for example, ancient Egyptian had been spoken for 4000 years while Arabic has been for only 1381 years. So, modern Egyptians are not Egyptians because they do not speak Egyptian — native Egyptian, and their native Egyptian application will be considered only after 2619 years. However, if Egyptian Arabic doesn’t make it to the 4000 year mark — you get the idea.
We all know how this goes. A land always has its ‘’native people’’, right?
Well, there is nothing ‘’fixed’’ about motion. Life on earth is motion. Everything is in flux. This includes humans, who have moved around, settled, and re-settled across the globe since the birth of mankind. It’s true that people settle somewhere, but they can’t stay ‘’on their own’’ forever. People are constantly on the lookout for greener pasture. It is as much an instinct in humans as it is in other species. If monarch butterflies travel 3000 miles only for better weather, why can’t humans do the same?
Nature proves that movement is a natural force like rain, wind, and having offspring; and wherever humans move, they are likely to intermix. if we do link ethnicity with a specific land or continent, we should all have stayed in Africa or wherever humans originated. That is our ”native land”.
How about the offspring of two different ethnicities? Should we split it in half and throw the first half to Africa (because it supposedly belongs there) and do the same with the second to wherever it originated? Is there really such a thing as ”purity”?
No matter what ethnicity you claim, it doesn’t change the fact that you are human, and the only land humans can claim as theirs is the globe.
Cultural habits and practices
Do people have the same cultural habits? English breakfast is, obviously, English. But do all English people have English breakfast in the morning? A lot of English people who pledged their loyalty to cereals would not only disagree but make a petition to make cereals officially English.
The Netherlands is one of the lowest ranking European countries in alcohol consumption. Does that mean that Dutch people with excessive drinking habits are not culturally Dutch? Oh wait, people come up with another word for this, ‘’lifestyle choices’’. But isn’t drinking beer supposed to be part of the Dutch lifestyle and way of life? How about the Chinese? Do the Chinese stop being Chinese as soon as they stop drinking hot water? Should Spain exile Spanish people who don’t have a siesta after lunch?
Why native is evil
So far, we have only examined the foundations of what it means to be ”native” in the public mind. In this section, we are going to have a look at why this concept lays eggs of evil wherever it goes. Cases range from mild to extreme, which is what we are going to cover, respectively.
Entitled, Privileged, and xenophobic sentiments
Being ”native” gives the impression that people in a certain area should have exclusive access to it. Native entitlement feeds on self-created delusions like ”the other”, ”the foreigner” and especially ”the immigrant”; a direct threat to the native privilege of exclusive space ownership.
Such attitudes always lead to negative behaviours. If a land should be inhabited by its ‘’native people’’, it follows as a logical-but-not-so-logical conclusion that it must be protected from foreigners to preserve its native chastity. After all, isn’t the land part of what shapes people’s identity?
Bullying, harassment and assault
As stated earlier, there can’t be a native without a foreigner. According to native privilege, foreigners shouldn’t expect equal treatment because they are not on their ”native soil”. This leaves them vulnerable to all kinds of bullying, harassment and, in extreme cases, assault. Certain political parties capitalize on existing native privilege sentiment by exaggerated discourse on the threat of ”foreign elements”, encouraging hostile behaviours towards ”non-natives”. For example, referring to Brexit, The UK government states that ”there has been spikes in hate crime following certain events such as the EU Referendum.” In the United States, hate crime rised by 20 percent under the Trump administration, according to an FBI report.
Ethnic cleansing and genocide
The harder you press the native button, the more violent the actions against those deemed ”non-native” get. Forced depopulation, ethnic cleansing and genocide are a few extreme manifestations of native mania. We have to be careful not to fall to such dangerous traps because a lot of people did in the past.
Propaganda, fear and hatred incitement are a few of the red flags to watch out for. We must never ever forget that no matter how much we love ”our” countries, we all share the biggest of them all; earth.
What do you think? Do you share the same definition of the concept we discussed? Do you have anything interesting to add? How do you feel about this article? Is there anything you disagree with?
Please share what you think in the comments below! Thanks for reading!